July 02, 2007

Why We Need Hate Crimes Legislation

From 365gay.com:

Nearly four in 10 gay men and about one in eight lesbians and bisexuals in the United States have been the target of violence or a property crime because of their sexual orientation, according to a new study.

"This is the most reliable estimate to date of the prevalence of anti-gay victimization in the United States," said University of California, Davis, psychology professor Gregory Herek who conducted the study.

"The data demonstrate that crimes against sexual minority adults, especially gay men, are disturbingly widespread."

There's a lot more statistical analysis in the article, and it's well worth reading, but the high level view in the excerpt I posted should be enough to convince any rational person that hate crimes against GLBT people, especially gay men, are a serious problem.

Anything happening to 40% of any minority needs to be taken seriously and stopped!


People can not be forced to accept or respect GLBT people, but they need to be held accountable when they act upon their hatred and bigotry.

Anyone who is not full of that hatred and bigotry should be able to see that very clearly. To state that in a form that even the folks on the religious right can understand, Jesus would not abuse GLBT people! What is so difficult to understand about that?

Of course, hatred and bigotry has a way of clouding people's judgement so they have trouble seeing much beoynd that.


  1. I was disappointed not to see any mention of hate crime against transgender people in the article. I wonder why the original survey covered only GLB people? Perhaps those who conducted the survey felt there to be some fundamental difference between sexual orientation based crime and gender identity based crime?

    GenderPAC's "50 under 30" campaign calls attention to the increasing number of gender identity based crimes taking place. These crimes often go unreported, and those that are reported are disproportionately unsolved.

  2. Sorry, but as far as I was aware, people are prosecuted for violent crimes already, under the laws that we have.

    And as far as I know, being a bigot, while hateful, is perfectly legal, and even protected by the First Amendment.

    Now, if you impose a greater punishment on a person for what they think, in addition to punishment for the commission of a crime, then you have gone above and beyond what is healthy for a free country. However much it might kill me and/or you, the bigots have a right to their [exceedingly stupid] opinions. I'm sure we don't disagree about this.

    Why then should a greater punishment be given someone, just because he's a bigot? A violent act is a violent act.

    And when it comes to trial, if the assault was especially vicious, well that's what "aggravating factors" are for. As far as bigoted-ness, that goes down to motive.

    Let me present this comparison. Lets say "Criminal A" attacks and robs one person because that person is gay. Let's say "Criminal B" attacks and robs another person because that person is rich. Who deserves greater punishment? A or B?

    Ceteris paribus, I'd say they both deserve the same.

    And if you were going to use the Crain argument about A's crime acting to intimidate a whole group, the same is true, as B's crime would serve to intimidate "rich people".

    Also, in B's case, in trial, the fact that the victim was rich would almost certainly be used to establish motive. The analogous circumstance in A's case would be that the victim was gay. This again should go down to show motive.

    We have laws to punish people who commit violent acts. We don't need to punish people for what is in their head during the commission of the crime.

    If what's in the head is punishable in addition to the crime, then what logical consistency is there to the argument that it shouldn't be punishable under normal circumstances (i.e., without other criminal circumstances)? I know that's taking it a bit extreme, but it's worth thinking about. The whole idea makes me very uncomfortable.

    Voltaire might not be spinning, but he's certain to be feeling a bit restless.

  3. Psudain,
    What you seem to be failing to understand is that part of the extra punishment for hate crimes is deterrent factor. In an imperfect system, you're never going to get rid of crime. However, you can deter some people if you put into the law a penalty above and beyond for a hate crime. There are some who would still do it and that's a shame, but there are those who would stop and think about it if they knew that Joe Blo in the next city got an extra 10 years tacked onto his sentence because he hurt someone because of his hatred for their color or sexual orientation, etc.
    Also, this is not about what you think...it's about what you act on. There are all kinds of extra pentalties for the circumstances of a crime. If someone commits a robbery and they use a gun in the commitment of that crime, they get extra time. If someone kills another person as well as raping them, they get extra penalties. It's not about them wanting to rape the person or hating them or whatever. It's about what they acted on. What they did. I can think that someone who is hispanic is less than me, but if I hit them upside the head because I think that way, then I should be punished accordingly. We should not tolerate hate crime, period. Being a bigot is perfectly legal, to be sure. Being a bigot who beats somebody up because of their race or other factors is not.

  4. You don't seem to get what I was saying. I understand perfectly well what the legal system is for--deterrence. And I also understand perfectly well that the, "it'll happen anyway" argument is plain bunk. Which is why I did not make that argument. I made the argument that there is no need to criminalize a non criminal behavior. Nor am I saying that crimes committed because of hate shouldn't be prosecuted. But we don't need additional legislation, for the simple reason that they already are prosecuted.

    If punishments for assault need to be made more severe to give additional deterrence, then that's what should be done, for all offenders. Not special punishments for special motives.

    As for the your examples: The commission of armed robbery is made more severe by the usage of the gun, as assault with a deadly weapon is a crime unto itself. If you walked up to somebody and pointed a gun at them, you'd be in trouble regardless of what else you did. And rape is a crime unto itself, as well. So in both of your examples another, separately punishable offense was committed.

    For your argument to hold water under your examples, then "bigotry" and/or "hate" must be separately punishable criminal offenses in order to warrant additional punishment.

    My point is that there are already laws against doing these things. The "why" of a crime goes toward proving motive; it does not factor in punishment.

    If a known bigot assaults me because I am gay, then it will be easier to make a case against him--motive is easily established--and prove that case. That is where that fits into the puzzle.

    What if somebody assaults me because they think I might have money on me. Should they be punished additionally for the reason they did it (it wasn't a wholesome one, they intended robbery)? (And if you say that they would be punished more for robbery, then yes, that's true, but theft is a separately punishable criminal offense, regardless of whether it occurs in the context of an assault).

    Unless you have an example of an instance where a non-criminal activity results in additional punishment, then I still say that, however unpleasant it may be, non-criminal behavior should not be punished, especially when it's in a person's head.